Nik Darlington 2.57pm
Walt Disney said he always tried to look on the optimistic side of life, but was “realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter”.
Such is the sentiment of realpolitik spreading through William Hague’s Foreign Office, the theme of Peter Oborne’s column in today’s Daily Telegraph (and an aspect of foreign policy that Aaron has argued in favour of at great length on these pages).
Zimbabwe remains a target of ire. Outside the Commonwealth since 2003, with Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF still pulling the strings, the southern African state appears on the surface a long way still from being brought in from the cold.
However, amid the excitements of an oncoming Olympic Games, its security mishaps, banking shenanigans and the start of Parliament’s summer recess, the Foreign Office announced an important change of course.
On Tuesday, Foreign Office minister and TRG vice-president Alistair Burt announced that the Government wishes to lift many of the sanctions currently imposed on Zimbabwe. Considering Mr Mugabe’s repugnant past of massacres, human rights abuses and incompetence on a criminal scale, outrage at any reduction in sanctions would be understandable.
But would it be rational? That is the difficult question posed by Peter Oborne today. The full article is well worth your reading, but here are some key extracts.
"Many people who really know Zimbabwe have argued for some time that, while sanctions were of course justified by the scale of the human rights violations when they were imposed a decade ago, they have in practice been a propaganda gift to Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.
"More important by far, it is not just Zanu-PF which wants them lifted. So do its opponents. Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told Mr Cameron in March this year that he was certain the sanctions regime should be dropped. Mr Tsvangirai would also like Zimbabwe to be readmitted to the Commonwealth.
"The fact is Zimbabwe has been a success story after reaching rock bottom during the hideous violence, accompanied by hyperinflation, of the 2008 elections… The political atmosphere [today] feels very different. Meanwhile, the economy…is now powering ahead under the skilful management of the MDC finance minister, Tendai Biti.
"[This new] position requires a great deal of political courage because it exposes ministers to the charge that they are going soft on murderers and dictators.
"But it also stands in a respectable tradition of British statecraft. There would have been no peace in Northern Ireland if ministers had not been happy to talk to men of violence. In Afghanistan, we now acknowledge that no solution is remotely possible unless Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders are granted a central role.
"[There are] hideously complex moral problems that lie ahead as Zimbabwe enters one of the most dangerous, but most hopeful, election years of its short history. Meanwhile, Britain has taken an entirely sensible first step."
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